Another Clean Energy Failure

Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power plants were supposed to be an economical method for generating electricity, while removing 90% of the CO2 from emissions.

IGCC plants gasify coal, then separate the CO2 from combustible gasses, primarily hydrogen, and then burn the combustible gasses in a gas turbine, with the exhaust heat from the gas turbine used to produce steam for use in a steam-turbine generator.

IGCC Schematic from DOE Report
IGCC Schematic from DOE Report

This schematic illustrates the complexity of an IGCC power plant.

Two IGCC plants have been built in the United States, and one is under construction.

The plant, built by Tampa Electric Company in 1996, under an agreement with the Department of Energy (DOE), was the first IGCC plant built in the United States.

The Tampa plant was about half the size of the two newer plants and cost around $4,000 per KW, adjusted for inflation.

Tampa Electric cancelled plans for a second IGCC power plant.

The IGCC plant built in Edwardsport, Indiana, by AEP, cost around $5,340 per KW.
The plant under construction in Kemper County, Mississippi was originally estimated to cost $3,780 / KW.

The Kemper plant has been plagued by cost over runs. Costs have now ballooned to around $6 billion, or roughly $10,000 / KW.

For comparison purposes, a nuclear power plant costs approximately $6,000 / KW, while a natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) plant costs around $1,100 / KW.

In addition, the Kemper project completion date has been put off again.

And Kemper is only designed to capture 65% of the CO2, not the 90% required for a so-called clean energy facility.

Kemper, an IGCC power plant, can only be described as a spectacular failure.

The failure of Kemper, and the probability that CO2 will not be sequestered underground, at least in part due to the threat of earthquakes and the possibility that sequestered CO2 can escape to the atmosphere, means that this facet of the clean energy agenda has failed in its entirety.

Only wind and solar remain, and it’s highly questionable whether they can produce more than 20% of the nation’s electricity. Germany, with only 22% of its electricity produced by wind and solar, is having difficulty maintaining its grid and the reliability of its electricity supply.

IGCC power plants are not a viable clean energy alternative. Wind and solar may also not be viable alternatives, except as niche supplies, similar to geothermal.

 

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0 Replies to “Another Clean Energy Failure”

  1. Donn,
    Given your numbers and assuming that power production via coal must release much less CO2 to remain viable, do these imply that coal as an energy source in the US will continue to be on a downward track?

    • Yes, especially if the effort to cut CO2 emissions continues.
      If the EPA is forced to stop its war on coal, then, with the use of ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants, future use of coal in the U.S. will depend largely on the price of natural gas vs that of coal.
      Ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plants can’t get down to 1,100 tons per Mwh, but they can improve by around 40% from current levels of CO2 emissions from existing coal-fitted power plants.

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